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Frome rail campaigners fight for better London links

RAIL commuters could benefit from faster journey times and better services to London, if electrification of the railway reaches to Westbury and, under more ambitious plans, Frome itself.

Campaigners say that electrification would encourage better services to London, but without it, commuters face disrupted journeys.

The Department of Transport is electrifying the railway from London to Newbury. But campaigners fear that, if electrification stops there, commuters will face disrupted journeys when they change from old diesel trains onto the new electric line at Newbury.

Instead, local campaigners want to see electrification extended to Westbury, allowing for faster, direct services from London Paddington to the town. A more ambitious option would see electrification continue to Frome and the Mendip quarries, further increasing the chance of better services to Frome.

Electrification offers faster journey times and 20% more seats compared to diesel trains. They are also better for the environment and cheaper to operate.

Frome Town Council, Frome Chamber of Commerce, and local businesses have joined with campaigners from Wiltshire to push for electrification to Westbury, and have met with Arup, the Department of Transport’s consultants.

Peter Wheelhouse, Economic Development and Regeneration Manager for Frome Town Council, said, “It’s really important we ensure Westbury does get electrification. The message we’ve been giving to Arup is that there are lots of people locally, in business or otherwise, who find fast, easy services to London really important.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from local businesses who have said this is really important. Businesses have moved to Frome on the back of relatively easy train travel to London.

“At the very least, we want to be sure Westbury is served by electrification. One of the things we’ve done, in conjunction with Frome Chamber of Commerce, is to ensure Arup have all the information they need to help with their research.”

Horace Prickett, a local rail campaigner with the West Wilts Rail User Group, says that Frome deserves a better train service. He said, “Frome has a station that was built in the 1850s, it was reduced to a single line at the time of Beeching, and has a very poor service indeed. It is the largest town on the Berks and Hants line, and has the worst service.”

Arup is expected to report to the Department of Transport later this month.